UNWTO Secretary Taleb Rifai addressed the Royal Aeronautical Society at the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) headquarters, and called for increased visa facilitation and the liberalization of air transport (Montreal, 5 December 2013). As SW Associates experiences on multiple projects, including most recently in Zambia, these are critical issues for the sustainable growth of tourism, especially for destinations that are working hard to increase their competitiveness. The UNWTO and WTTC recently presented an excellent report on visa facilitation, which will help many destination countries with their efforts to reduce visa restrictions.
Mr. Rifai, the first speaker from outside the aviation industry to give the Assad Kotaite Lecture, highlighted the interdependent relationship between air transport and tourism in his address, Tourism and Aviation: Building Common Policies for Sustainable Growth. He reiterated the need to position both sectors collectively to help stimulate the growth of the overall economy and create opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship.
“If we are to achieve the forecast rise in international tourist arrivals from 1 billion in 2012 to 1.8 billion in 2030, with all the concomitant economic and social benefits, we must work as one,” Mr. Rifai said. “Increased coordination among airlines, tourism destinations and airport authorities at national level, and the joint work of UNWTO and ICAO at the global level, will help position travel and tourism as a strategic sector with air transport at its core,” he added.
Mr. Rifai emphasized market liberalization as a key factor for the development of civil aviation and tourism, citing World Trade Organization (WTO) estimates that show that replacing the most restrictive bilateral air agreements by most liberal ones may increase traffic by over 75%.
On visa facilitation, Mr. Rifai stressed that restrictive visa issuance policies and complicated entry formalities are still stifling travel and tourism growth, particularly from emerging economies, which are some of the fastest-growing source markets for tourism. Supporting visa facilitation will help stimulate the economy and generate employment – as many as 5.1 million additional jobs in the G20 economies by 2015, and 2.6 million new jobs in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies by 2016, according to recent research by UNWTO and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).
Other key issues addressed were tourist/consumer protection, intelligent taxation, and the fight against climate change, issues which he maintained were areas of common concern for both the tourism and aviation sectors to achieve a significant impact in promoting sustainable growth and development.